Biological evolution was merely a finite preface to the main story of evolution, the unbounded evolution of memes.

Cultures consist of memes, and they evolve. In many ways memes are analogous to genes, but there are also profound differences in the way they evolve. The most important differences are that each meme has to include its own replication mechanism, and that a meme exists alternately in two different physical forms: a mental representation and a behaviour. Hence also a meme, unlike a gene, is separately selected, at each replication, for its ability to cause behaviour and for the ability of that behaviour to cause new recipients to adopt the meme. The holders of memes typically do not know why they are enacting them: we enact the rules of grammar, for instance, much more accurately than we are able to state them. There are only two basic strategies of meme replication: to help prospective holders or to disable the holders’ critical faculties. The two types of meme – rational memes and anti-rational memes – inhibit each other’s replication and the ability of the culture as a whole to propagate itself. Western civilization is in an unstable transitional period between stable, static societies consisting of anti-rational memes and a stable dynamic society consisting of rational memes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, primitive societies are unimaginably unpleasant to live in. Either they are static, and survive only by extinguishing their members’ creativity and breaking their spirits, or they quickly lose their knowledge and disintegrate, and violence takes over. Existing accounts of memes fail to recognize the significance of the rational/anti-rational distinction and hence tend to be implicitly anti-meme. This is tantamount to mistaking Western civilization for a static society, and its citizens for the crushed, pessimistic victims of memes that the members of static societies are.

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A collection of Memes.


An entity that contributes causally to its own copying. Ideas are a type of replicator. For example a convincing religion, or a good joke, cause themselves to get replicated. We call this category of replicators Memes.